Leadership Story: Damayanti Vasudevan

Damayanti Vasudevan, PhD, vice president of diversity of RR Donnelley and the president of the RR Donnelley Foundation, is an accomplished individual by any standard. She’s been with the company since 1999, and prior to Donnelley, held various roles including principal consultant for Minerva Business Consultants and management consultant for Pope & Associates Inc. With a doctorate in organizational behavior from the University of Cincinnati, Vasudevan has has spoken at numerous international and national conferences, is a published writer, and sits on many nonprofit boards.

Asked about her most significant accomplishment, Vasudevan says, “It’s really not any single accomplishment. From the background I came from, Asian-Indian female born and raised in England in a working-class family during the 60’s and 70’s, just breaking through the gender, ethnic, racial, cultural, and economic barriers to reach a position in life where I can and hope to have a positive impact on the lives of others is for me an accomplishment in itself.”

The traits and skills Vasudevan believes have contributed to her success include learning from others which, as a leader, involves recognizing and adopting different styles for different cultures, challenges, and goals. Other skills she has leveraged include being a strong listener, being focused and getting results, building relationships, and being there for others. “To the extent possible, this means never letting no be my first answer when something needs to be done or someone needs help,” she says. “It might be my final answer, but not often my first.”

Vasudevan has no qualms with facing adversity head-on, and recognizes that different approaches are required for different situations. “Over the years, gaining a better understanding of what my own strengths and shortcomings are have helped me decipher when a difficult situation is about me and that I should own it, or it’s about someone else’s challenge, fear or insecurity and to leave it where it belongs,” she says.

In terms of life/career defining moments, Damayanti acknowledges that there have been many individuals who have seen her potential and have provided opportunities and/or support, including her family. Today, she says, she draws more and more upon an inner strength that wasn’t there during the early part of her career.

Her advice to others? “Never stop learning about yourself, others and the world around you.”

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